Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Because of Fair Housing, Low-Income Tenants Did Not Lose Their Homes

The rule was intended to help people struggling to pay their rent. On July 3, hundreds of low-income New Yorkers gathered in Lower Manhattan for a ceremony marking the 45th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, the landmark civil rights law passed in 1968 that sought to ensure housing discrimination could not be used as a tool of exclusion. Among the guests was Pamela Fuentes, 65, a mother of five who uses a

wheelchair and receives Medicaid. She lives with her niece in a low-income housing complex in Elizabeth, N.J., where, until the new rent regulation rule went into effect in April, she regularly lost her apartment in rent-regulated units, which had become prohibitively expensive, because she needed to replace her old motorized wheelchair. “It’s like being locked up in a cell,” she said. She and other tenants at the

housing complex said the new regulation reduced the number of such evictions by an estimated one-third. A group of activists worried that the relief would be temporary and canceled out by rising rents. But the figures provided by the city Housing Preservation and Development Department show that landlords, using the new rules, instead evicted fewer tenants during the first month they were in effect, than they did

with the old regulations during the same time period. The department would not release the number of evictions during April. But on average, during the first month of the new regulation, there were six less evictions. During the same time period in April 2016, there were seven fewer evictions. “If people hadn’t done anything, things would have gotten much worse,” said Darryl George, 36, a front desk clerk who is

almost always on call for disability calls and who pays about $1,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment. Mr. George, who has worked for housing activists for 12 years, lost his apartment last summer because his income was too low to qualify for rent-stabilized housing. “When I left, everyone knew my name,” he said. “They said if you want anything done, the HUD office needs to call you.” In another housing complex in

Queens, Jonathan Gonzalez, 42, had a similar story. He recently bought his first apartment after years of living in subsidized housing for the poor. The complex, owned by a company that primarily builds and manages hotels, had suddenly raised his rent from $790 to $1,700 a month. “I could’ve stayed in Section 8 and cut my rent in half,” Mr. Gonzalez said. But when he tried to fill out the required paperwork with a

government housing subsidy, he said, he was denied the eligibility because of a failure to provide last month’s rent. He lost his apartment. Mr. Gonzalez has been unsuccessfully trying to file complaints with the city and has been using a civil service job fair to get hired by another company. The next job fair is scheduled for this weekend. “I can’t afford to stay here,” he said. “If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be

leaving.”

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